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Workers in Wales make the best of a bad job

8 July 2013

Workers in Wales are happier than they are elsewhere in Britain, despite jobs being lower paid and less skilled, according to a national survey carried out by the School of Social Sciences. 

The findings are based on face-to-face interviews with 3,200 workers aged 20-65 undertaken by a team led by Professor Alan Felstead.

The results show that:

  • Pay is lower in Wales than other parts of Britain – workers in Wales get around four-fifths of the British average rate of pay, and about two-thirds of what workers in London and the South East earn.
  • However, jobs in Wales are less skilled, with part-time jobs among the lowest skilled of all.
  • Despite this, workers in Wales display higher levels of job satisfaction, enthusiasm and contentment with their work.
  • They are also more committed to the organisations they work for – they have higher loyalty levels and they are more willing to work hard to help the organisation succeed.
  • However, good quality work is relatively scarce with workers in Wales saying that it is more difficult to find a comparable job than workers in other parts of Britain.

These are among some of the findings from the 2012 Skills and Employment Survey.  The survey, conducted every six years, is jointly funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).  Additional support for the Welsh sample came from the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD).

Professor Alan Felstead, School of Social Sciences, and Director of the survey, says: “Work in Wales remains poorly paid and lowly skilled.  Once in a job, workers in Wales fear that it would be difficult to find a job as good as the one they currently have and that comparable alternatives are fewer and far between.  As a result, workers are more satisfied and happier with their jobs compared to workers in more prosperous areas where alternative jobs of the same quality are more plentiful.”

The researchers also note that workers in Wales are more optimistic about keeping their jobs compared to those working elsewhere.  However, fewer workers in Wales have experienced recent job loss and organisational change at their place of work than in other parts of Britain.  Both factors are closely associated with job insecurity.

“With the Welsh economy more dependent on the public sector, the effects of the austerity measures have yet to be fully felt,” says Rhys Davies of WISERD, and co-author of the reports.  “Once they are, the mood of workers in Wales may change drastically and leave us with less to cheer about.”

Scott Waddington, Chief Executive of SA Brain and Co Ltd, and a Commissioner at the UK Commission for Employment and Skills welcomed the report, said:

 “These findings echo my personal experience. In general, Welsh people are hard-working and dedicated employees who are extremely committed to their job. Good employers recognise and value these qualities, and build on them by providing skilled jobs with training and opportunities for progression. The challenge we all face is attracting more and better jobs into the country, and encouraging Welsh businesses to really take ownership of the skills of their workforce. Developing a highly-skilled and competitive workforce is one way of giving Wales the competitive edge it needs if it is to take its rightful place as one of the most productive and prosperous parts of the UK.”


The reports were launched on July 8th at Cardiff University with the support of the Bevan Foundation.

Click here to read about how this story was covered in the press and to listen to Professor Felstead talking about the research on BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru. 

For more information about the 2012 Skills and Employment Survey and to view the reports, please visit: